May 132015
 
Buon viaggio!

Buon viaggio!

A few weeks ago a message arrived in my inbox announcing that The Italian Trade Commissioner, Pier Paolo Celeste, is off to a new post in Moscow, and of course, there would be a little send-off. I don’t deny I was feeling sad about his leaving, as we’ll miss the creativity and vigor he brought while in New York City. Here’s to your mission in Moscow, Pier Paolo. Stay warm and in bocca al lupo! — You sure know how to give a party!

Two cheese legends, Lou Santomauro (Di Palo) of Di Paolo's FIne Foods and Margaret Cicogna, wows with their selections for the night.

Two cheese legends, Lou Santomauro (Di Palo) of Di Paolo’s FIne Foods and Margaret Cicogna, wow us all with their selections for the night.

The best young and aged pecorinos from Tuscany.

The best young and aged pecorinos from Tuscany.

Gorgonzola dolce, the cheese in its sweet, runny stage, is indescribably umami, incomparable, and very hard to find outside of its place of origin. I snap it up from DiPalo's whenever I can.

Gorgonzola dolce (Gorgonzola, Milano province, Lombardy), the cheese in its sweet, runny stage, is indescribably umami, incomparable, and very hard to find outside of its place of origin. I snap it up from DiPalo’s whenever I can. My favorite way to eat it is slathered over a mound of freshly cooked, steamy polenta.

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Another sublime scoopable blue cheese, from Piemonte, this one aged with artisanal beer.

Occelli Castagna from Piemonte, a combination cow's- and goat's milk cheese wrapped in chestnut leaves, which imparts their sweetness and flavor.

Occelli in Fogle di Castagno from Cuneo, Piemonte is a combination cow’s- and goat’s- or cheeps’ milk cheese wrapped in chestnut leaves, which imparts their sweetness and flavor.

Cow's milk cheese aged in grappa from Trentino, a terrific match with fruit.

Cow’s milk cheese aged in grappa from Trentino, a terrific match with fruit.

Montasio from the Friuli-Venezia Giulia, young, sweet — and underexposed in the U.S. It's the cheese originally used for frico, the crisply fried cheese dish that Lidia Bastianich popularized in NYC at the now defunct Frico Bar.

Montasio from the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region is a young, sweet — and underutilized cheese in the U.S. It’s the cheese originally used for frico, the crisply fried cheese dish that Lidia Bastianich popularized in NYC at the now defunct Frico Bar.

RIsotteria Melotti made a spectacular risotto with the vialone nano rice they produce themselves in Verona.

RIsotteria Melotti made a spectacular risotto with the vialone nano rice they produce themselves in Verona.

Eating Risotteria Melotti's risotto with truffles and porcini and having my photo taken at the same time.

Eating Risotteria Melotti’s risotto with truffles and porcini and having my photo taken at the same time.

A recap of accomplishments bringing Italian businesses and American markets together, and a farewell to staff.

A recap of accomplishments bringing Italian businesses and American markets together…

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…and a farewell to staff.

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How to say it in Russian.

Photos: ©Nathan Hoyt/Forktales 2015

 


May 042015
 

When people ask me what I do for a living, I usually hesitate before answering. Writer? Journalist? Chef? Cook? Teacher? Story teller? Food advocate? Environmentalist? All of those descriptives are true for me, as they are for so many of us. Food can’t be separated from its source and what happens to it on its way to our plates. Chefs Collaborative, a nonprofit that educates about a better food system and celebrates the best in American cooking, is made up of hundreds of chefs, cooks, growers, farmers, fisher people, ranchers, cheese makers, artisans, writers, reporters, publishers, educators, activists — and it’s a mighty brain trust. Its latest gathering, “MeatMatters,” a fundraiser at the Food Network Kitchen in NYC about producing and eating meat, was an extravaganza — demos, tastings, and live lessons presented by a stellar collection of chefs and experts from around the country. Between bites, it gave everyone food for fodder. Wish you were there.

Rick Bayless, turns up the heat. Photo: Nathan Hoyt/Forktales

Chef Rick Bayless of Chicago’s Frontera, Xoco, and Topolobambo (reputedly President Obama’s favorite restaurant) fires up the crowd. “Sell sustainable on your menus through its deliciousness — it’s all about how the food tastes,” he told the gathering.

At the Food Network Kitchen, Sara Brito, Executive Director of Chefs Collaborative, brings together authors, journalists, media people, and shakers in the food world for a briefing before the party.

Chefs Collaborative Executive Director, Sara Brito, introduces the subject to journalists prior to the event.

A partial view of press and members at the roundtable include, from left to right, master butcher Adam Danforth of Oregon, Sara Brito, founding member and luminary Chef Rick Bayless of Chicago, Mel Coleman of Niman Ranch in Colorado, environmental advocate Chef Gabe Kennedy, board member and organic farmer Sylvia Tawse of Colorado (right, standing), Julia della Croce

Heritage Radio

Left, Kathy Keiffer of Heritage Radio Network, right, Piper Davis of Grand Central Bakery, Seattle.

This crowd doesn’t sit for long. Preliminaries over quickly and it’s on to the chef stations for tastings of what they  have prepared with a little help from Food Network Kitchen staff.

Chef Howard Kalachnifoff's Lamb Meatballs with Spiced Yogurt and Carrot, Gramercy Tavern. Photo: Nathan Hoyt/Forktales

Lamb meatballs with spiced yogurt and carrot made by Chef Howard Kalachnikoff of NYC’s Gramercy Tavern.

Gramercy Tavern

The Gramercy Tavern team assembling the delicious meatball sliders.

Journalist and New York Times best-selling author Michael Moss who won a Pulitzer Prize for his investigation of the dangers of contaminated meat, working the line.

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Journalist Michael Moss going for the fried chicken.

Chef Shanna Pacifico, NYC, 2016 Chefs Collaborative Scholarship recipient, serving up her chicharone de pollo.

Chef Shanna Pacifico, NYC, Chefs Collaborative Scholarship recipient, serving up her fantastic chicharone de pollo with spring vegetable slaw.

Bill Telepan tossing favas

Michelin star Chef Bill Telepan of Telepan NYC flipping favas. Considering he pioneered WITS, Wellness In The Schools, promoting healthy eating, environmental awareness and fitness as a way of life for kids in public schools, it’s not surprising he wants you to eat your vegetables..

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Telepan’s peas and fava beans with nettles and almonds — one of the most luscious dishes I ever ate (that’s saying a lot!).

It was about learning from leading change-makers in the culinary world as much as eating great food. People stop at individual stations to talk to them.

Chef Stephen Stryjewski, Cochon, Cochon Butcher, and Peche, New Orleans.

Chef Stephen Stryjewski of Cochon, Cochon Butcher, Peche, New Orleans, serves up blissful stone ground smoked grits with braised pork cheeks, onion gravy, and crushed herbs.

Chicago’s legendary restauranteur Rick Bayless, known for his traditional and innovative Mexican food, raises awareness about sustainable meats through his advocacy work, and on his menus. He carefully sources all the ingredients he uses, and has some of it, such as corn, produced especially for his restaurants. Because all conventional maize from the U.S. and Mexico alike is GMO, he hires local farmers to produce crops without genetically modified seeds for his restaurants. His soft skillet tacos with skirt steak, green adobo, and fresh lime, are a revelation about Mexican food.

Julia talking GMO with Rick Bayless

Talking about the GMO and corn with Rick Bayless.

Rick Bayles, lessons

Some beef pointers from Chef Rick Bayless.

Piper Davis

Pastry chef Piper Davis offered rhubarb tart with a flaky leaf lard crust topped with whipping cream topped and fresh strawberry. She talks about how her thinking evolved about using lard and whole grains in baking.

Demos included a lesson on goat butchery with Adam Danforth, who just won a James Beard Award for his masterful, Butchering Poultry, Rabbit, Lamb, Goat & Pork: The Comprehensive Guide to Humane Slaughtering and Butchering. He talks about about the practical importance of utilizing the meat from nose-to-tail and the flavor attributes of lesser known muscles. Mature meat is cheaper to produce, tastes better, and takes into account animal welfare, he says. His motto: “Eat better meat and less of it.”

Adam Danforth

As hands-on as it gets. Adam Danforth butchers a goat at MeatMatters while a fascinated audience observes.

Derek Wagner

Chef Derek Wagner of Nick’s on Broadway, Providence RI, gives a cooking demonstration using the butchered goat.

Not surprisingly, people in the food business are serious partiers. The bash is also a great opportunity for discussing the issues with like-minded people who are at once doing important work and creating delicious food.

mixologist

Food Network Kitchen mixologist offering drinks and cocktails using local wines and spirits.

Photo Op

Photo op for Chefs Collaborative’s Christine Kim, Sara Brito, and Alisha Fowler.

Peter Hoffman

Seen: Chef Peter Hoffman, farm-to-table pioneer of Back Forty and Back Forty West, NYC.

Alisha Fowler

“Best Chef” James Beard Award winner and Chef Collaborative board member Evan Mallet of Black Trumpet, New Hampshire, with the Collaborative’s program director, Alisha Fowler.

Sean

Left, Kelly Whittaker of Denver’s Basta and Cart Driver, nominated one of America’s Best Chefs by his peers.

Sylvia Tawse

Chefs Collaborative Board member, Colorado farmer, natural food advocate and mover Sylvia Tawse, left, with Erin Bates from Basta and Cart-Driver in Denver.

“You must get people to think about where their meat comes from,” Rick Bayless summarized. 

Sara Brito and Rick

Sara Brito and Rick Bayless getting out the message together.

Niman Ranch

Right, Mel Coleman of Niman Ranch, pioneers in sustainable ranching, talking about how to raise meat responsibly.

Matt, Corie, Rick, etc.

Left, Chef Collaborative’s current president Matt Weingartnen, and Zester Daily publisher Corie Brown.

Matt Weingarten

Current Chef Collaborative president, chef, author and activist Matt Weingarten wraps up the evening.

Even with all the partying, we are on a serious mission: nothing less than changing the way people eat.

All photos by Nathan Hoyt/Forktales

Mar 302015
 
Victor Hazan Italianizes My Irish Stew

My readers will now and then offer comments on my recipes, but no one is more exacting than Victor Hazan, husband of and collaborator with the late Marcella Hazan and indeed himself a very fine cook. Here is a message he sent me about my Beef and Guinness Stew recipe, which I offered in my Zester Daily column for St. Patrick’s Day:  I followed it more or less scrupulously, save for some things an Italian cook wouldn’t go for, e.g. boiled potatoes served with their skins on. Che barbarità! I peeled and quartered them and threw them in with the meat after it had […more…]

Mar 192015
 
The Italian Answer to St. Patrick's Day is St. Joseph's, the Gorging Holiday

Just two days after the American Irish whoop it up on St. Patrick’s day, Lenten eating restrictions are lifted once again for the Italians to celebrate Father’s Day, the Feast of Saint Joseph (Festa di San Giuseppe). The foster father of Jesus, symbolic breadwinner, protector of Mary, patron saint of families, orphans, unwed mothers, and the indigent is reverenced with an orgy of eating, drinking—and most importantly, sweet gorging.  Joseph is by happenstance also the patron saint of pastry cooks. My grandfather was named Giuseppe, so this day held special meaning for us. Like other Italians, we celebrated with treats made only for this day, typically bigné (fried eclair with filled with […more…]

Mar 152015
 
The Art of the Stew, Irish Style — with Beef and Guinness

Hurry, go make yourself some “roasty” beef and Guinness stew. It might, just might, top its Italian counterpart. And if you don’t get around to it for St. Patrick’s Day, no need to suffer — make it any old time! My story, with recipe, in Zester Daily here .  

Feb 072015
 
Is Traditional Italian Food an Endangered Species?

A couple of weeks ago, Linda Pelaccio, a producer and host at Heritage Radio Network, asked if I would talk to her about that very question. It’s the subject of my last book, Italian Home Cooking: 125 Recipes to Comfort Your Soul, and something that’s on my mind more than ever as I travel around Italy these days. Seems it’s going the way of America with its fast food habits and global food tastes, while we’re going the way of Italy, yearning to farm, recapture heritage seeds, and make artisan foods. So the other day, I made my way to the radio station launched by Patrick Martins, founder of […more…]

Jan 182015
 
Polenta: The Long and the Short of It, with Inspiration from Marcella

Nearly twenty-five years ago I wrote an article for Cook’s magazine titled “Polenta: To Stir With Love.” In it, I advocated the traditional method for stirring the cornmeal and water continually as it simmers on the stove for lump-free and silky results, just as I had watched my mother and countless cooks in Italy’s polenta-loving regions do. Although most cornmeal package directions call for simmering it for some 45 minutes, many Italian cooks believe that it should be cooked for at least an hour or even longer, to improve its creaminess and render it more digestible. (Where the stirring was once done […more…]

Dec 192014
 
Still Time Left for Making the Fruitcake You Can Love!

True English fruitcake—sumptuous, evocative, intoxicating— is something you can love. Here is a recipe dedicated to you for Christmas—especially to my friends who think they hate fruitcake. It’s a revelation: continue reading here for the recipe and story.